The comics blogosphere has a lot to answer for right now. The feminist comics blogosphere in particular has a lot to answer for. Not least for making me write the sentence I'm about to write:I'm sick of hearing about Batwoman.
There, I've said it. Let me explain.Greg Rucka is leaving DC Comics
. He says there's no bad blood
, and that he just wants to concentrate on his original work. This is all fine by me; I respect the decision, but I am going to miss his work on DC. Rucka, remember, is the writer to recreated Batwoman for the modern age, resurrecting Kathy Kane as Kate Kane, a strong minded ex-soldier kicked out of the military for being gay, who adopted the hypersexual Batwoman persona in order to find the lost direction that discharge took from her. Kate was introduced in the 52
storyline, but her character only developed and given depth and history in her run as Detective comics
headline character, written by Rucka and drawn by J.H Williams III. Recently the penciller has been the also superb Jock, but it was JHW3's art that caught everyone's attention, and it was his art that most people talked about when they talked about Detective Comics
Since Rucka's departure has been made public, Batwoman's been talked about even more. Does this mean her predicted-to-happen Batwoman title wouldn't emerge? Is Detective Comics
going to be about Batman again? Will we ever hear of her again? What a blow to lesbians in comics it will be to lose her!
This despite the fact that J.H. Williams III, whose work on Batwoman really outshone even Rucka's excellent writing, has said he hopes to continue working on her
and he's sure she's got a future. I will be sad to lose her, but I'm hopeful we won't. Which is more than I can say about her ex.
Kate Kane is not the first lesbian superhero character to be developed and written by Greg Rucka. Arguably, she's not even the most important, as in universe she has connections and relationships to very few other characters. She's not the first lesbian in the Batverse, and she's not the first lesbian superhero to head her own title. She's been a main character for a year, and now Rucka's leaving, she appears to be all anyone wants to talk about.
In 2003, in the sixth issue of Gotham Central
, Gotham police detective Renee Montoya was forcibly outed by Two-Face, in the award winning storyline Half a Life
. Renee wasn't the first or at any point the only openly gay woman to work in the GCPD; Maggie Sawyer, an import from Metropolis (and in meta terms, the Superman
franchise) had been out since the 1980s, but Renee's story was different.
Renee was forcibly outed by a supervillain, and her parents, both immigrants from the Domincan Republic and strict Catholics, disowned her following the outing. Her story was one of race, of religion, and of homophobia. Of dealing with the sudden whiplash that came with having her identity forced into the open and under scrutiny from her family and her colleagues on someone else's terms. It wasn't a case of "we know and we love you" or even "we love you anyway", but of having a secret torn from her and her life laid bare to the pure hate from her family and the misplaced macho ribbing from work. It was a story that was both uniquely Renee's and which belonged to everyone whose outing didn't involve supportive hugs and assurances that it changed nothing.Half a Life
, like all the Gotham Central
stories focusing on Renee's day shift colleagues, was written by Greg Rucka. Rucka was the writer behind Renee's previous character defining moments in No Man's Land
(standing up to Batman and later, Two-Face) and Officer Down
. Rucka wrote the scenes in 52
that followed Gotham Central
and followed Renee pulling her collapsed life back together piece by piece, going from violent alcoholic to the zen-inspired masked vigilante the Question, and introduced Kate Kane as a supporting character to Renee. Rucka wrote the miniseries The Question: Five Lessons in Blood
, which I think, but can't prove, is the first time a lesbian superhero has had her own title published by DC. Rucka wrote one of the better Final Crisis
tie-ins, with Renee partnering with the Huntress and taking on Vandal Savage. Rucka has been writing Renee ever since, as she's starred in the Detective Comics
co-feature, pencilled by the excellent Cully Hamner.
For ten years, Rucka has been the primary writer behind every major development of Renee Montoya. She is not the only lesbian character in DC comics. She's not even the only chromatic lesbian in DC comics; although lesbians and chromatic characters are still woefully underrepresented. She is, however, important, as a member of this underrepresented group. She's also a fantastic, well-developed and consistently well written character, but that's not the context I'm coming from here, as it's not the context in which Kate has been talked about.
Since it was announced that Greg Rucka is leaving DC Comics, all anyone's been talking about is "does this mean the end for Batwoman?" and not a single "oh and also Renee" - unless it's me in the comments or on Twitter (I've been ranting a lot about this on Twitter). Renee has ten times the history and character development under Rucka's pen, and is ten times the character, but even her current artist has said he doesn't intend to continue with her
as Rucka leaves.
Kate is the blogosphere and DC's golden girl. Renee's future is in serious doubt.
Now, admittedly this could be because although Hamner is as great an artist as Rucka is a writer, Williams' work on Detective Comics
has been beyond comparison, and has pushed Batwoman to a wider, discerning audience. Almost certainly, it speaks of the fact that the symbol on Kate's chest belongs to a much higher-profile male character than the man whose mask Renee has adopted. Put Bat- in front of anything and it gains a profile.
But what has actually happened, in the year after a biracial Batgirl
was replaced by her blonde friend
, just months after DC killed a pre-pubescent biracial child
, having already put another Asian girl on a bus
(not to mention what they did to Connor Hawke, another non-white character), is that a high profile writer has annouonced his departure, and everyone is angsting over the loss of his white
lesbian character, and completely her chromatic companion.
Well played, comics fen.